Thursday, November 14, 2013

This sign may be confusing--on church suppers and other interpretive dilemmas

While walking to work along a Halifax street this week, I was struck by a sign in front of a neighbourhood church announcing a "HAM BEAN DESSERT SUPPER." At first I was befuddled--what was a ham bean? Was this a new food, something like a souped up meal-in-one Chinese steamed bean bun, sweet enough for dessert?  Somehow, on this corner, angled between the military base, low income housing, and an alternative Buddhist school, I didn't think so. When I turned around to look at the sign again, I noticed that the back of the sign read, "LIKE US ON FACEBOOK."

Churches these days! I wondered if anyone was walking the parish streets, knocking on doors and having conversations on the stoop or over coffee? Is God now just another character, another page to LIKE? Has it really come to this?

When I got home and reported on the HAM BEAN DESSERT SUPPER, Marike told me something even more astonishing that, swept away by the oddity of a HAM BEAN DESSERT SUPPER I'd failed to notice: below the supper announcement was this line--"Call for takeout." Wow, a church hall supper, and you don't even have to eat what is offered there with others. What kind of congregation is that? What a dull stretch my childhood would have been without the wild antics and odd guests attending church suppers. Our meals tended to 13 varieties of tuna casserole or, post-Thanksgiving, turkey tetrazzini (with or without potato chip toppings), finished off by box cake and sometimes singing. Or hide and seek and gymnastics, in adjacent rooms.

Imagine eating a church supper all alone, or in front of the tv, without long or short prayers, others' bad behaviour, sticky spills of purple kool aid, wads of paper napkins, getting pinched in a folding chair, or the necessity of pitching in to set up and then clean up.  It seems positively sacrilegious.

The "No Parking picture" was taken in Van Anda on Texada Island, looking out over the Malaspina Strait in British Columbia; "Staple and Fancy" is part of an old butcher's sign painted on a wall in downtown St. Paris, Ohio.

And yes, Martha Stewart does have a recipe for turkey tetrazzini:  If you should make this meal, I hope you enjoy it, but please do not invite me. Hell in my book is being condemned to eat nothing but turkey tetrazzini in a church basement, over and over again. With or without peas. Without or without mushrooms. With thick or sticky,  thin or non-existent cream sauce. With or without potato chips on top. With crispy noodles or damp; white meat or dark; with or without breadcrumbs or thyme. On second thought, maybe they're on to something with that takeout option...

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